Monday, July 07, 2008

The Western Theater

Continuing, or returning to, our tradition of visiting Civil War battlefields in the hottest days of summer, we spent the holiday weekend at Shiloh. Actually, we saw four battlefields all together--Parker's Crossroads, Shiloh, Corinth and Spring Hill. Parker's Crossroads was just a lucky find for us, as we'd changed our minds about the route we would take to Shiloh at the last possible moment. Luckily for us, Ron Jr. and Sue Jordan of the Parker's Crossroads Battlefield Association were on duty at the visitors center. They walked us through the battle and the PCBA's preservation plan, and were just generally nice to us. In fact, everyone we met last weekend was nice, and almost made me not hate all of humanity. That engagement started off our weekend of battlefields in the right way, I think.

I can see why Shiloh is Rick's favorite battlefield--although Cold Harbor is still my favorite (after Gettysburg, of course). It was a nice mix of driving and walking, good interpretive markings, and not too crowded once we were away from the visitor's center. The main interpretive center is really in Corinth, MS, at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, although there is a small center at the battlefield itself. This is a new building, sweetly designed with good lighting and layout. I'm not sure who the exhibit designer was, but the signage was clearly done by a professional group. Staffed by friendly people who feel lucky to have the jobs that they have. Two good movies, one about the battle of Corinth, one about Shiloh. If you want a movie experience, best to do it here, the movie out at the battlefield must have been made in the 1970s. It wasn't bad content-wise, but the sound quality wasn't good, and all those fake beards glued to soldier faces were distracting.

We stayed in Corinth on Friday night (July 4), then did the battlefield on Saturday. It was an all-day endeavor, and we could have stayed out longer, but I think we got a pretty good feel for the battle as it was. Stopped at Shiloh church to talk to some men who were fixing a water leak, listened to the warning about copperheads in the pine trees, stood dutifully at the edges of the bloody pond and thought about it all. The battlefield has a nice picnic spot set up away from the auto tour route, so we had a nice lunch in the trees (before we were cautioned about snakes). Unfortunately, we weren't able to visit the Indian mounds because the trail was under construction and heavily guarded by caution tape.

Sunday was a long drive home. It's supposed to be an eight-hour drive, but we lost some time going to see the railroad crossing at Corinth, and also when we turned around to go to a rest area on the opposite side of the freeway so I could look at the Saturn IB rocket on display. Then we took up a lot more time with the Spring Hill battlefield. It's smaller than Parker's Crossing, but uphill from the parking lot. Ate lunch next to the creek near the battlefield pull-off, then headed north. The drive up I-65 was endless. I don't know what it was--everyone was tired and trying to get home asap after a holiday weekend? A lot of aggressive driving by people in over-sized vehicles. We have a couple of more road trips planned before I leave for London in September, but I'm starting to think I'm too old for this kind of weekend.

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